This was not such a big issue since the buildings on these streets were beautiful and passing by our favourite chocolate stores regularly was not such a hardship. We did consider taking transit some days, but there was no good route that would eliminate enough of the walking distance for us. We still would have to walk many blocks to get to a bus and after we got off the bus, let alone finding the bus stop and figuring out when the bus would come. Our home swap hosts kindly offered to let us use their bikes, but we did not feel confident enough to ride on the cobblestone streets and over the streetcar tracks without really knowing where we were going. Therefore, we made the trek each day and walked so much that despite weeks of eating chocolate and waffles, we did not gain any weight by the time we returned home.
Fashion Museum in Paris.
It was not until I got home and had time to read through the brochure of the exhibit, that I began to appreciate some of the innovative concepts in tailoring, technique and material that Margeila invented. His “Vareuse” featured a deep V-neck on a shirt, sweater or jacket that allowed the wearer to remove the top by sliding it off the shoulders and stepping out of it, or tie the sleeves around her waist. He designed clothing with removable components such as collars and sleeves, and “mix-and-match-able” items that can be layered or un-layered. He also made transformable items such as a coat that could turn into a cape, and a jacket that could be folded up into a bag for easy transportation. I would have still preferred an exhibit that featured more colour and pizazz, but I came to understand why Margeila was important to the fashion world.
There was one extra small exhibit at the Momu, featuring the knitted and crocheted works of Antwerp fashion designer Ann Salens, whose designs were worn by musical duo Nicole & Hugo, the Belgian version of Sonny and Cher. Salens created frilly silk dresses for Nicole in a gradient of colours that are stunning to behold. She also designed several matching crocheted trouser suits for Hugo. As part of the exhibit, a video was shown of Nicole and Hugo discussing their former performance outfits, but unfortunately, it was in Dutch so we couldn’t understand what they were saying.
Kloosterstraat turned out to be every bit the fun, quirky street that it is reputed to be, full of antique and bric-a-brac shops, art galleries and shops that sell cool and unusual items. We came across the interesting design store at Kloosterstraat 46 that had plastic busts of buff nude males in various colours and hairstyles sitting on the road in front of its door. Then when you look up at the rest of the building, you see more mannequins sitting on each of the windowsills. In a furniture store, there were leather “cow-patterned” chairs that my cow-obsessed friend Murray would have loved. From far away, I spotted some “purses”, each with a big hole in the middle, which turned out to be designer garden hoses. We passed by the Baan Phetara Thai Massage clinic, whose mannequin of a monk in the window seemed so realistic that I got the creeps looking at it. You could see every pore and whisker on his (its?) face.
It was such a joy for us to walk up and down Kloosterstraat, looking at the windows or walking into the shops to get a closer look at interesting items. In a novelty shop, we found piggy banks shaped like Chairman Mao, Einstein and Karl Marx, a toilet paper roll shaped like a camera, and the “Pyro-Pet” candle which exposes the skeleton of an animal once you burn away the wax of a candle. A hat shop featured an interesting headpiece that consisted of a series of purple fans stuck to a velour hat. I was particularly stuck by the almost profane treatment of traditional religious icons in some of the art pieces. There was the set of plates that when put together, form the image of Jesus crucified on the cross. Then in the art gallery Pjez Unik, the artist named “DA AD” creates religious statues dressed up like super heroes, including Saint Batman, and a “Madonna cradling Jesus” trope re-imagined as Captain America cradling Superman.
We chose the restaurant Haute Frituur since it was known for its Belgian fries with choice of dipping sauces. The fries were crispy but still too thick for my taste. We were able to try “samurai” sauce (mayonnaise with herbs and hot peppers), another Belgian staple. But it was the special croquette that we ate here that was the most memorable and possibly our favourite dining experience in Antwerp. We had tasted the traditional cheese and shrimp Belgian croquettes already, but because it was asparagus season, Haute Frituur was offering a special asparagus croquette. This was so delicious that we kept hoping to have it again at another restaurant, but to no avail. To go with our fries, Rich ordered a bacon and cheese burger while I requested a breaded fish burger with tartar sauce. I liked the little buns that the burgers came on and the side vegetable salad. Rich ordered the Belgian Kamil beer, a specialty beer with “high fermentation”, which apparently produces beer with a high alcohol content and a more complex aroma.
We found three more comics murals on this day’s walk. On Korte Riddersstraat, Willy Vandersteen recreates a scene from the cover of his Suske & Wiske (Spike & Suzy) comic book “The Amoras Island”. On Oever, Bretch Evens “Colourful Parade” depicts an amalgamation of animated characters including a babushka doll, the Chinese cat and many others that I didn’t recognize. On Kloosterstraat, right across from Haute Frituur, Marc Sleen’s mural depicts his character Nero sailing a tugboat on his way to the North Pole. We thought it would be fun to use the “cartoon mode” on our camera to photograph me in front of the murals, effectively turning me into a comic strip character as well.